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John Gregory Eckhardt

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BENNINGTON -- John Gregory Eckhardt died in Bennington on Nov. 1, 2005. He was born in New Jersey on March 5, 1932, and was the son of Dr. Ralph A. Eckhardt and Dr. Marie F. Gregory. The family summered in Vermont before he moved to the area as a young man. In 1959 he married Lynn Emilie Andersen in the Zion Episcopal Church in Manchester Center. He later served as a member of the vestry at Zion. He also served as a selectman for a number of years in Landgrove.

He was a 1954 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. While in college be was on the varsity soccer, wrestling and pistol teams, and was named All-American in pistol shooting. He won the Intercollegiate Pistol Championship in 1954, and anchored the Army team to the national championship the same year. After graduation, he continued to compete as a lieutenant, making the All-Army team and twice firing in the National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. He maintained a lively interest in shooting and weaponry his entire life.

Mr. Eckhardt served as an Airborne Ranger Special Forces qualified officer at Fort Bragg, N.C., and in Germany, Central America, and South East Asia. He was seconded to the CIA in Southeast Asia where he was decorated by the King of Laos for his services as advisor to the military governor of Saravane Province in Laos. While there he was awarded two Purple Hearts and Royalist Forces of Laos parachutist wings.

He taught math at Burr and Burton Seminary in the mid-1960s. A life-long love of the game of soccer saw him start the soccer programs at both Burr and Burton Academy and Flood Brook School, as well as coaching and playing for many years on both the Manchester and Londonderry summer soccer league teams. He also initiated a wrestling team at Burr and Burton Academy.

He was a civil engineer and ran an office from his home until the onset of Parkinson’s disease curtailed his abilities in the field. A stroke in 1995 further curtailed his mobility but he stayed active by writing articles for nationally-published magazines on such diverse subjects as skiing and the war in Vietnam. On occasion he pitched in as the armchair coach for various soccer teams.

He was on the national board of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, and received an honorary life membership in that organization for his contributions to the sport. As a fully certified alpine and Nordic ski instructor he taught at several local ski areas but was most proud of helping to develop the Stratton Ski Touring Center in the late 1970s, where he worked for more than a decade.

Survivors include his wife, Lynn; a daughter, Lisa Eckhardt McNealus of Landgove; two sons, Greg Eckhardt of Poultney, and David Eckhardt of Suffield, Conn.; a sister, Suzanne Morgan of Williamsburg, Va.; and four grandchildren, Cooper and Leyte McNealus of Landgrove and Peter and Elsa Eckhardt of Suffield.

A memorial service will be held at 12:30 on Sunday, Nov. 13, at the Zion Episcopal Church in Manchester Center, with the Rev. Christopher Smith presiding. Interment services will follow with full military honors at 2 p.m. at the Landgrove Cemetery.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the West River Sports Association, c/o Craig Henson, P.O. Box 685, Londonderry, VT 05148.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Mahar & Son Funeral Home in Bennington.
Published in Bennington Banner on Nov. 5, 2005
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